Authors: James Patterson
Tags: #Mystery, #Young Adult, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Juvenile Fiction / Mysteries & Detective Stories, #Juvenile Fiction / Family / Siblings, #Juvenile Fiction / Social Issues / Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, #Juvenile Fiction / Love & Romance
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I’m writing to you from Paris on a stunning day that is way beyond anything I could have imagined. I thought I was prepared for this, but I was
I remembered how I endured months of a forced and hellish separation from my boyfriend, James Rampling, when I didn’t know if he was alive or dead. How my mind was wiped of nearly every memory of our time together, until I doubted his entire existence. So now, as I stood in front of the astounding Musée du Louvre, scanning the elegantly dressed crowds for a sight of him, it felt completely unreal that he would appear.
And then—he called my name.
James darted through the speeding traffic circling the Place du Carrousel. When he finally reached me, and after we’d exchanged a few shy words, he lifted me off the ground and swept me into an amazing kiss that I’d rate ten big blinking stars and another couple for sheer epicness.
I’m not the gushy type. I’m rational and logical, and not exactly prone to girly exaggeration, so when I say that kiss was like two halves of one heart meeting and locking together, you can believe me.
Or believe the cars driving past us with honking horns and people shouting out the windows,
—Long live love!—and
“Eh, il ya des hôtels pour ça!”
—There are hotels for that!
My long-lost boyfriend and I stood there under the noonday sun in the center of Paris, traffic whizzing by us, ruffling our hair and sending a hot breeze up my skirt.
James’s face was so open, I could see his thoughts.
“I love you,” he said. I already knew.
As I said, “I love you, too,” a defeated look came into his eyes.
I asked, alarmed.
James was looking over my shoulder, and I turned and saw that a black car had braked to a stop a dozen yards from where we stood. Three men leapt out. Two of them
were heavily muscled and the third was tall with thick black hair that was pure white at the temples and wearing a black trench coat. He came toward us, and I saw that his face was all twisted up with fury.
He called out sharply, “James. We have to talk, son.”
James turned me away from the car so that I was looking only at him. He grabbed me by my shoulders and gazed at me intensely with both love and desperation in his eyes. He said, “It’s my father, Tandy. You have to run.”
“No. Absolutely not. I’m not leaving you,” I replied, but he begged me to do what he said.
“Please. I’ll find you again. I will. But if he gets his hands on you, he’ll hurt you. He’ll crush you, Tandy. Just run.”
Really? Run and wait another six months or a year or ten in the dark while James tries to escape his father? I think not. Maybe Mr. Rampling could hurt me, but
had the power to crush me. “I have a better idea.”
I fixed my eyes on the ruthless Royal Rampling and yelled, “We’re not afraid of you!” I pointed an accusing finger at him and screamed, “
James began yelling at him, too. His face was bright red, and cords stood out in his neck. “I’m not your property. I don’t belong to you!”
We attracted attention, that’s for sure. People streamed
toward us. Cars jammed on their brakes. Cameras and cell phones were pointed at us, and I guessed we’d hear police sirens any minute.
Mr. Rampling must’ve realized that, too. He scoffed, then called out to James,
“Ce n’est pas fini jusqu’à ce que je dis c’est fini.”
It’s not over until I say it’s over.
Then he and his goons turned and stomped off to his car.
James and I stood together and watched them go.
This was a triumph, an incomparable victory.
Love had won the day.
Correction. Love had won the moment.
As that black car screeched away from the curb, I felt high with so many emotions: pride and elation and also fear—because while Royal Rampling had been driven away, there was nothing stopping him from coming after us again.
“Tandy,” James said. “Look at me.”
I looked into his gray-blue eyes, and despite the fact that his dad might still be circling around us in his car, James and I might as well have been the only two people in the world.
James smiled at me, making my heart pound.
“The look on my father’s face when you stood up to him, Tandy. You are completely awesome.”
We grinned at each other and hugged hard, laughing from pure delight. “We are
completely awesome,” I said.
And we were.
Something big had changed in the last five minutes. I didn’t have to fantasize. I didn’t have to dream. I didn’t have to sift through fractured memories looking for something real. Right now, we were in love and together—in
If there had been a sunset, we would have walked into it and the story would have been over. But sunset was so many hours away, and James told me he had made lots of plans.
He grabbed me into a hug, kissed my hair, and said, “You and I have some catching up to do.”
I agreed. “We do.”
We turned off our phones, even though my guardian, Uncle Jacob, had expressly told me never to do it. But since I was about to break at least a dozen other rules with James today—
—one more hardly made a difference.
We slipped our arms around each other, and set out on a stroll through the most romantic city in the world.
Paris was truly amazing and so incredibly different from my hometown of New York City. There were no skyscrapers. The buildings were old and grand, and a glorious river ran through the city under a clear, wide-open sky.
Could anyone ask for a better place for a reunion?
Not me. I was over the moon and the stars and even the sun.
We stopped at Depot Nicolas, a wine shop where James bought a bottle of Bordeaux wrapped in white paper. The next stop was 38 Saint Louis, where he chose a big wedge of Brie, then the Boulangerie des Deux Ponts for a long, skinny bag of warm baguettes.
We lunched on a bench under shade trees fronting the quai, a concrete embankment that slopes gently down to the River Seine. Bikers and lovers and laughing children with small dogs made an endless parade, and boats sailed by just below our feet.
We hugged and kissed, again and again, and talked over each other and laughed enough to make up for our six months of despair and total blackout. Then we went quiet.
James lifted strands of my long dark hair and wound them around his fingers. He did this reverently, as if he’d never seen my hair before. He touched the top button on my pin-tucked white shirt and traced the flouncy hem of my skirt. He kissed my temples and my mouth and the palms of my hands.
It was as if every place he touched burst into flames. I pressed my cheek to his, burrowed under his arm, and
fitted myself perfectly against his strong, lean body. I ran my hand under his leather jacket and covered his fast-beating heart.
If there was ever a case of spontaneous combustion, this was it. We were on
To tell the truth, I was so elated, I was a little afraid.
“I have something to show you,” James said. “Want to take a little walk?”
He didn’t have to ask me twice.
Walking hand in hand with James
was like being wide-awake inside the most delicious of dreams.
He had a mischievous look on his face as he led me across the Pont des Arts, a footbridge that arched gracefully over the Seine. A low chain-link fence lined the walk, and it was festooned with padlocks—thousands of them.
James said, “Look what I have, Tandoori.”
I watched eagerly as he took something out of his jacket pocket. It was an old brass padlock, as worn and dinged up as our journey to this moment. James handed the lock to me, and when I turned it over, I saw our initials etched into the back.
James did that.
I looked up at his face. His cheeks were colored with emotion, and I understood why he had brought me here. With a shaking hand, I hooked the lock into the fence between other locks that had been placed there by lovers over the years. When I closed the hasp, it made a solid and permanent sound.
James separated two keys from a ring. He gave one to me and clenched his fist around the other.
“We have to do this together,” he said.
I followed his lead but turned to face him. Then he said, “On the count of three.”
We smiled at each other as we counted down. At three, we heaved the little keys over each other’s shoulders, beyond the sides of the bridge. They disappeared into the rushing water far below.
The moment was both joyous and solemn, as if we were taking vows that could never be broken: James Rampling and Tandy Angel together in perpetuity. Tears welled up, but I didn’t want them. No more tears. I’d already shed enough tears for a sixteen-year-old girl.
James squeezed my hand, and I saw tears in his eyes, too.
It just couldn’t get better than this—but it
We wandered the city for hours, just reveling in the happiness of finally being together and carefully avoiding
any negative talk that could kill our buzz. When the sky turned cobalt blue, we dined alfresco on steak frites and café au lait at the Café du Trocadero. From our tiny marble table under the awnings, we had a magnificent view of the Eiffel Tower, which sparkled madly with silver lights.
Our knees touched and our feelings arced between us like lightning.
“I wrote to you,” James said. “When you didn’t write back, I thought you blamed me for what happened. I thought you hated me.”
Of course, I hadn’t known that James had written to me. At the time, I didn’t even remember his name.
I told him what had happened to me since I’d last seen him: about my horrid abduction and wretched incarceration in a high-class nuthouse, the treatments that had erased him from my mind. And I told him about my parents’ savage deaths. They had done everything they could to keep James and me apart, but that obstacle was gone now.
“I didn’t know you had written to me until I found your cards in my mother’s desk.”
He covered my hands with both of his and told me about his own lockdown in a superstrict Swiss school without phones or Internet.
“My father, your parents. They did what they could to keep us apart. But this was meant to be,” he said.
We left the bistro and went underground to the Métro, getting off at the St-Paul stop. We walked under warmly illuminated arches and came upon musicians playing cello and violin under the stars.
James dropped coins into the musicians’ cup, and they called after us,
“Merci, monsieur et mademoiselle. Bonne chance.”
Yes, it was
good luck that James and I were together at last.
The next thing I knew, we stood at the entrance to a small, run-down-looking hotel called the Grand Hôtel Voltaire. The brass appointments were tarnished. The stone threshold was worn down from the millions of footsteps that had crossed it through the centuries. It was a one-star hotel, but I thought it was perfectly poetic and completely romantic.
James looked into my eyes.
And he held open the front door.